In the wake of “Scream” – Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven’s witty and self-aware resuscitation of the slasher film – studios were clamoring for the next big thing, anxious to replicate Scream’s success by recycling that winning formula. One of my favorites of the post-Scream era (and also scripted by Williamson) has to be Jim Gillespie’s super-silly slasher romp, “I Know What You Did Last Summer”.
A group of four young friends accidentally run over a man on a deserted road, and decide to hide the body rather than risk their respective futures by going to the police. The group’s ringleader, Barry (Ryan Phillippe) is a jock with aims at football stardom, while his girlfriend, Helen (Sara Michelle Gellar), has her sights set on a television career. Poor local boy, Ray (Freddie Prinze Jr.), doesn’t really have anything to look forward to, but, at the same time, he doesn’t have the financial resources to get himself out of this mess if the law got involved. That just leaves perpetual sad sack and goody-two-shoes, Julie (Jennifer Love-Hewitt), who doesn’t want to go along with the others but is bullied into a pact of silence by Barry. When the teens go to dump the body, however, they realize that their victim is not quite dead, and, as he sinks to the bottom of the harbor, the group slowly realizes that their “accident” is now a full-blown murder cover-up.
Cut to one year later. Julie – once a brainiac on scholarship – is a guilt-plagued basket case (we know this because her clothes are all neutral colors and loose fitting, and her hair is sorta messy) who’s on the verge of flunking out of college. Julie returns home for summer break only to find a letter that simply says “I Know What You Did Last Summer”. Desperate for answers, she seeks out her former friends (they’ve all grown apart since the pact). Helen’s dreams of New York stardom have faded, and now she’s working at the fragrance counter of her parent’s store, while Barry the former football star is now an alcoholic trouble maker. Ray, Julie’s ex, has followed in his father’s footsteps, and is working as a fisherman. Each of them eventually receive the same menacing message, and are forced to band together to find the person threatening to expose their secret - that is, unless he finds them first.
I Know What You Did Last Summer was adapted by Williamson from one of those “young adult” horror novels, and it shows. It’s borderline Scooby-Doo level stuff, but there’s just something so outrageously fun and endearing about this picture that I can’t help but watch it with a big stupid smile plastered across my face. It doesn’t hurt that two of the hottest television starlets of the day – Love-Hewitt and Gellar – headline the flick, nor does it hurt that Gillespie’s atmospheric style gives the film a fairly sophisticated look for a simple “kiddie” slasher. It’s all very goofy, not particularly scary, and funny for all the wrong reasons, but there’s just something about this flick that keeps me coming back for more.
Sony delivers IKWYDLS to Blu with a near-flawless 1080p MPEG-4 AVC 2:40.1 transfer that looks as fresh and vibrant as it did more than a decade ago when I first saw this flick in theaters. Colors are lush and bright, while blacks are rich and provide a strong sense of depth and pop to the image. Stand out scenes include the initial accident, in which the kids approach the body on the roadside bathed in deep blues and blacks, with the flashlights and the car’s headlights providing a sort of lens flare effect that’s really quite stunning looking. There are some moments where the image appears a bit drab (the parade comes to mind), but that’s a weakness of the original source material and not this transfer.
The 5.1 True HD Surround mix is robust and quite well mixed. The dialogue is crisp and clear, and the musical “stabs” come across with the requisite amount of volume and intensity to guarantee a few jolts. Bass response was a bit on the disappointing side, but the surround mix was quite nice and enveloping, especially during the beach scene early on in the film, where the ambient sounds of gulls and waves filled my viewing room.
Extras are all recycled from previous DVD releases, including a feature-length commentary, a fairly beefy 30 minute retrospective featurette entitled Now I Know What You Did Last Summer that features cast and crew reminiscences from the shoot, a music video for Kula Shaker’s cover of “Hush” (which did little more than remind me why it was I completely forgot about Kula Shaker), and “Joyride” a short film by Gillespie. Rounding out the good stuff are a bunch of HD trailers for Sony BD releases.
I Know What You Did Last Summer is as easy on the eyes as it is on the brain, and makes for a great date night flick, afternoon watch, or get-together-with-friends-and-make-fun-of-it movie. It’s also a movie I know I’ll watch at least a dozen more times, especially given the fantastic audio/video presentation afforded to this BD release, so, for my money, it’s worth the purchase.